Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
Character Role Analysis
Bernard's Solidarity Service, The Whipping at the Savage Reservation, and The Big Orgy Episode
These three scenes are part of a larger "foil pair"—the World State and the Savage Reservation. Rather than talk about the obvious (civilized vs. primitive, technology vs. nature), we thought it would be more interesting to look at these three scenes. The first is part of the civilized world and has to do with sex. The second is part of the Savage Reservation and has to do with violence. The third is the meeting of these two worlds—John the Savage and the civilized citizens of the World State—where we get the height of violence and the most explicit sex.
Huxley connects these three scenes even at the level of the word. During Bernard's Solidarity Service, we hear the "indefatigable beating of drums" while the dancers "beat and beat out the indefatigable rhythm." (Our italics.) Later, at the reservation, Lenina witnesses "the whole air […] pulsing, pulsing with the indefatigable movement of blood. Up there, in Malpais, the drums were being beaten." The phrase "Orgy-porgy" dominates the Solidarity Service; Lenina whispers it softly to herself in Malpais, and the crowd strikes up the refrain for the third time in the final chapter. Finally, soma is used in the first and third scenes, and Linda wishes aloud that she had it in the second.
Religious implications further connect these episodes: Solidarity Service is a mockery of religion, with its "Sign of the T" and prayers to Ford. The whipping at the reservation is a sacrifice to the gods, and of course the final scene is a sort of crucifixion. And look at this line from the first scene:
"Oh, he's coming!" screamed Clara Deterding […] and it was as though she were having her throat cut
as compared to this one from the second:
First one woman had shrieked, and then another and another, as though they were being killed.
In the third scene, John is naked from the waist up, as is the boy taking the beating at the reservation. The Native Americans stand in a circle during their ritual, as do the twelve members of Bernard's Solidarity Service.
Linda and Lenina
Linda and Lenina constitute the big Freudian pairing in Brave New World, since one woman is John's mother and the other his would-be lover. Disturbing psychoanalysis aside, what do the two women have in common? Well, both are typical upper caste women from the civilized world. We don't know for sure that Lenina is a Beta, but the text strongly suggests as much, so we're going to assume that's the case. So both women are Betas, both visit the Savage Reservation with an Alpha male, and both are forever changed by it. Linda and Lenina share an obsession with material goods, clothing, scent, and appearances. They're equally disgusted by life on the reservation. They're both sexually overactive and berated for it, Linda by the women of the reservation and Lenina by John.
These are important connections. In fact, we'd venture to say that 1) John is in love with Lenina in part because of her similarity to Linda, and 2) Lenina is so disturbed by Linda because she recognizes in the older woman great similarities to herself.
Bernard and Helmholtz
Huxley's explicit narrative style invites us to compare Bernard to Helmholtz. So here we go:
While both Bernard and Helmholtz share a dissatisfaction with the state of things, Bernard merely whines about it while Helmholtz actually thinks about it intensely, working toward a solution instead of harping on the problem. The most revealing test of character comes when the chips are down. Look at Bernard's reaction to the threat of Iceland. He's cocky at first, but as soon as he realizes the threat is real, he freaks out. He doesn't have the courage of his convictions. And as much fun as it would have been for us to figure this out, Huxley tells us:
He [Bernard] had imagined himself courageously resisting, stoically accepting suffering without a word. […] Now that it looked as though the threats were really to be fulfilled, Bernard was appalled. Of that imagined stoicism, that theoretical courage, not a trace was left.
Helmholtz, on the other hand, laughs and remains calm in the face of the very same threat. He's ready to face the consequences, and the novel rewards him for this—banishment to an island, the Controller explains, is a gift, not a punishment.
Speaking of laughing, check out Chapter 6, when Bernard gropes Lenina in the helicopter. He's all introspective and being an individual, and then… "Then, suddenly, Bernard began to laugh. Rather oddly, Lenina thought, but still, it was laughter." This maniacal laughter is followed shortly by the aforementioned groping. Compare this to Helmholtz's "laugh of exultation" in Chapter 15, as he rushes forward to defend John against the angry Deltas.
Bernard and John
Bernard and John are living out parallel situations in opposite worlds. Both are isolated from their peers because of physical differences (John because he's white, Bernard because he's shorter than the other Alphas) and because of dissatisfaction with the status quo. But the way they react to these situations is very different, and that's where the foil part comes in handy: John's fortitude highlights Bernard's pusillanimousness. (Someone bet us five bucks we couldn't get that word into this guide—it really just means lack of courage.)